May 7, 2015

[Theater] Run For Your Wife (Repertory Philippines)

I think a lot of folks underestimate Repertory Philippines since they still focus on a lot of straight plays as opposed to musicals. Sure, everyone loves a good musical and they're a heck of a lot of fun to get into for sure. But there's still something to be said about live theater on its own and all the brilliance that can be achieved there. And so Tobie and I still make the effort to go see Repertory Philippines productions when we can squeeze them into our schedule.

Admittedly I wasn't immediately keen to watch Run For Your Wife since I was totally unfamiliar with the source material. I had no frame of reference about how good or bad the play could be, but curiosity and an empty gaming schedule slot all came together to sort of conspire and get us to watch the show last Sunday.

And I am so thankful that we did. This was pretty much one of the funniest plays that I've ever seen and quite the brilliantly executed little farce as well. And a good farce isn't easy - it relies a lot on the talent of the cast to juggle all the crazy situations and do so with a straight face. The team behind this play totally killed it.

Synopsis: Run For Your Wife is a an adult comedy play written by Ray Cooney and debuted at the West End back in 1983. This Repertory Philippines staging ran from April 10 to May 3, 2015 and was directed by Miguel Faustmann. Like other Repertory Philippines productions, it was held at the OnStage Theater at Greenbelt 1 in Makati City.

The story begins with Mrs. worried looking out the window, expecting her husband to be home by now. But things unfold to reveal two Mrs. Smiths, both apparently married to the same John Smith (Jamie Wilson), a taxi driver by trade. In Wimbledon he's married to Mary (Goldie Soon) but over on Streatham he's married to Barbara (Mikkie Bradshaw). By sticking to a tight schedule he has managed to carry on with both women at the same time with the other none the wise - even though they live about 5 minutes away from one another.

But everything begins to unravel when he gets into a bit of an altercation with some muggers trying to take the bag of an old lady. The accident throws his schedule off and the succeeding police inquiry doesn't help either. But as Detective Sgt. Toughton (James Stacey) in Wimbledon inquires as to why the hospital thought he lived in Streatham. John eventually enlists the help of his friend Stanley (Jeremy Domingo) to keep up with the lies including a parallel investigation by Detective Inspector Porterhouse (Paul Holme) in Streatham.

Now a good far requires a strong setup of the various elements involved, followed by increasing levels of distress and an acceleration of events until things come to a head and it all goes crazy. This typically involves characters going in and out all the time and more and more of the prior events all coming together in one crazy mix-up. And juggling all those different pieces is what makes things so difficult when it comes to staying a play of this nature. It's more than just silly slapstick - it's the sort of back and forth that requires good timing and such.

Repertory Philippines has mixed results with comedic productions, at least in recent years. This was part of my hesitation to go see the show initially since I wasn't sure if they could pull it off well. But a few minutes in the show already had me laughing and by the end of Act 1 I was practically in tears. This show came together really, really well and I was truly surprised by how amazing it all was.

Jamie Wilson and Jeremy Domingo has some pretty amazing on-stage chemistry. A lot of the play relies on their ability to carry their respective scenes and they were truly great together and even on their own. They certainly both have such tremendous stage presence that you can't help but pay heed to what they have to say when they're up there. And the play was all the better for it because of their quite animated involvement in things.

That's not to say the supporting cast wasn't great either. I particularly loved Paul Holme as Detective Inspector Porterhouse. There was just something wonderfully charming about his character that had me keeping a soft spot for him. He's the sort of genuinely nice character largely oblivious to everything crazy going on and is solely focused on being helpful. And if that involves him in a frilly apron serving tea to everyone, then so be it.

The play had a lot of moving pieces in a figurative sense. You have the various characters and their respective priorities and a dynamic set that represented two different apartments with a significant amount of overlap. The very first sequence was a way to set things up and educate the audience as to how the stage was going to work - a key piece of information that helps you understand the rest of te action throughout the play.

My only regret is that the run of this play is already over and I won't be able to drag other friends to go see the play. It's the best production we've seen this year and it'll be difficult for another show to top the level of enjoyment we felt here. And given the rigors of the work week, this play was exactly what we needed to relax and unwind.

Run For Your Wife is a delightful production and was wonderfully staged by the Repertory folks. Everyone was at the top of their game and there's very little not to like in this show. Thus the play gets 5 mix-ups of names and pronouns out of a possible 5.

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